Novak Djokovic opened his Rome title defense with a hard-fought 3-set win over Spanish veteran Nicolas Almagro 6-1, 6-7(5), 6-3.
“At the end of the day it’s a win after three weeks with no official match,” said Djokovic. “In the important moments today, I did feel a little bit uncomfortable. Maybe that’s due to a lack of competitive play in the past couple of weeks. But I won against a quality player, who knows how to play on the big stage. All in all, it was a great test. Before coming to the court, I was aware he was going to present a great challenge.
“I needed to take some time off, because I have played a lot of matches,” the 3-time Rome champ added. “It has been one of the best starts to the season of my life. But it took a lot out of me, mostly mentally. So I needed to really take it off, recharge my batteries and spend some time at home. It probably did affect my overall feeling on the court today, especially in the tough moments. Hopefully the day off tomorrow will allow to spend some more time on the court, working to get better in the next one.”
Novak has won 18 straight matches and 22 in a row at the Masters level now.
Also, Stan Wawrinka overcame a set down to beat Juan Monaco. “For me, it’s never easy when I get into a tournament,” Wawrinka said. “Juan is a tough player to play, especially on clay. I’m happy to get through. The most important thing is to win matches.”
Tomas Berdych, David Ferrer, Kevin Anderson, Roberto Bautista Agut, Feliciano Lopez and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga all were seeded winners without losing a set. Lopez ousted 20-year-old Nick Kyrgios for his 100th career clay win.
“It was a great win, beating Nick today, after his performance in Madrid and Estoril, where he reached the final,” said Lopez. “I have not been so confident on the clay this season, but I hope this win will give me a boost.”
The lone upset was pulled by Guillermo Garcia-Lopez who beat US Open champion Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3.
In the women’s draw, top seed Serena Williams shook off an early elbow concern to breeze past Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6-1, 6-3.
“I love Rome. I always love coming to Rome,” said Serena who has won 15 straight in Rome including two straight titles. “I have always liked playing in Europe in general. It’s always been a special place for me, and I am always sad when I leave.”
Maria Sharapova and Timea Bacsinszky were also second round winners. Jelena Jankovic, Carla Saurez Navarro and Lucie Safarova were first round victors.
On Wednesday, several top names are in action with Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray taking the court. The women will see play from Petra Kvitova and Caroline Wozniacki who takes on fellow former No. 1 Victora Azarenka.
Regarding his slumping game, Nadal is taking things in stride.
“It’s not good as it was in the past,” Nadal said. “bbut I’m happy with my life, which has been fantastic to me. If I don’t win, life continues.”
WEDNESDAY ROME SCHEDULE
CENTRALE start 12:00
ATP –  A. Murray (GBR) vs J. Chardy (FRA)
ATP – [Q] M. Ilhan (TUR) vs  R. Nadal (ESP)
WTA – V. Azarenka (BLR) vs  C. Wozniacki (DEN)
Not Before 7:30 pm
ATP – P. Cuevas (URU) vs  R. Federer (SUI)
Not Before 9:00 pm
WTA – [WC] K. Knapp (ITA) vs  P. Kvitova (CZE)
GRANDSTAND start 11:00 am
WTA – A. Riske (USA) vs  S. Halep (ROU)
Not Before 12:00 noon
ATP – J. Vesely (CZE) vs  K. Nishikori (JPN)
ATP – D. Thiem (AUT) vs  G. Simon (FRA)
WTA –  V. Williams (USA) vs E. Svitolina (UKR)
Not Before 7:00 pm
ATP –  F. Lopez (ESP) vs V. Troicki (SRB)
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